Military Intelligence

An oxymoron is a rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined. An oxymoron may be the result of an error in speech, but is often used to highlight a point or to call attention to contradictory things.

An oxymoron can also be used for humor in which case the “incongruous” terms are in fact not contradictory such as George Carlin’s famous Saturday Night Live line, “The term jumbo shrimp has always amazed me. What is a jumbo shrimp? I mean, it’s like military intelligence – the words don’t go together man.”
In other words, the term “military intelligence” is not actually an oxymoron. From a medical perspective, the US military has been responsible for many great advances in medicine and medical care.    These may have been necessitated by war, but have benefitted all of us. They include emergency and trauma care, physiotherapy, pain management and infection control. It is my belief that a decision by The Army will add mental health care to this list.

In a recent statement, The Army’s top general, George Casey, said that The Army will start including anti­stress training in basic training and through “all levels of Army education for officers and enlisted men and women.”
This new program will start on October 1st, 2009 and is a response to rising number of suicides and stress related problems in The Army. In the article, “Stress Help to Start in Basic Training” released by the Associated Press on July 31, 2009, it is noted that military suicide rates in 2008 were “higher than civilian rates for the first time since record keeping started.”

I imagine that there will be supporters of this decision and there will be folks that are against this decision. There is a stereo­type of a Soldier as a person that is devoid of fear or emotion and is a picture of physical perfection. People who believe that this is the only way to be a successful Soldier are likely the ones who will oppose the decision to have stress management training. Their arguments would likely go along the lines of “We are training Soldiers and they need to act like Soldiers and not babies. Just get over it!”

Personally, I applaud the decision. I view the decision as forward­thinking and courageous. It is time that all of us, military or civilian learn to accept the fact that life can be difficult and unpredictable, especially during war. Things will happen that cause stress or depression or other emotional problems. I submit that it is healthy and a sign of strength, not weakness, to verbalize strong emotions and to ask for help or support. In some ways it is a weakness to hide emotions and pretend that everything is fine; another term for this is to “internalize”.

It is well established that people who internalize emotions are at higher risk for emotional problems such as Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Additionally, after exposure to an event that causes terror and perceived threat of death, the rates of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder increase the longer the person does not receive any form of counseling or treatment. This does not just happen in war.

If The Army is able to accept that it is ok to talk about feeling scared, or stressed, or just plain bad and realizes the benefits of stress management and acceptance of treatment, certainly citizens can as well. I think that over time we will all find that this program enhances the strength or our military and I am hopeful that civilians will learn a valuable lesson from the military.

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